3 Things to Look for in a Speaker (Presentation) Coach header image

3 Things to Look for in a Speaker (Presentation) Coach

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Author: Jim Endicott, Founder of Distinction


More and more these days people are seeking out coaching resources for their organization leaders. Why?  You probably already know the answer to that question – the ability for leaders to impact their organization seems to be directly related to their ability to communicate well.  And if they can’t, it’s probably going to be an uphill battle for them to achieve all they want to achieve.


“Leaders who are ‘highly effective’ communicators had 47%
higher total returns to shareholders over the previous five years.”
2011-12 Change and Communication ROI Study Towers Watson


Being educated about coaching in this very specialized area is an important way to make sure you’re not wasting your money. (Professional presentation coaches aren’t cheap – $4,500-10,000/day).  Here are three things to consider when selecting the right coach for your very busy leaders.

1.Change in human behavior is rarely the result of one quick coaching session

If a company tells you they can fix that struggling executive in one easy session – that’s not likely. As coaches, we’re never just working with a someone in the moment. We’re working with the sum total of their life experiences – good and bad, their native personalities and even buried insecurities.

That said, good coaches can actually change observable behaviors relatively quickly. We see it all the time. But internalizing those changes so they’re there under pressure takes effort and focus well beyond the session. And if the executive isn’t on-board with the need for change – those great new skills won’t stick around long.

2. You can’t change what you can’t observe

The video camera is the ultimate truthteller. Yes, it can be uncomfortable for some but the ability to create real change means seeing yourself through the eyes of your audience. It’s not uncommon for managers or executives to be surprised when seeing a quirky behavior (others have observed for years) or hearing an annoying cascade of ‘umms’ and ‘ahhs’ they thought were under control.

Not only is it important to use video, but the technique for skill building with the video feedback medium is as important as the use of the camera itself. Building skill-upon-skill in a slow progression of exercises allows the individual to validate the change and not become quickly overwhelmed with the process.  If they do hit the wall, they’re done and progress stalls.

3. Find a coach that’s deeply experienced and dedicated to presentation skills coaching.

It’s tempting to find someone who teaches email best practices one day and presentation skills the next.  But seldom do you find great coaching instincts in someone who dabbles in this very specialized coaching area. Good coaches are quickly assessing how to best work with the individual’s personality.  What’s their motivation for change?  How far can they take them in a session before they hit the wall? And does the coach provide convenient online resources to keep the process going after they get on an airplane?

Yes, you’ll save some money with the internal or external “Jack (Jill?) of all trades” coach.  But you most likely will give it all back when the skills are not driven deeply through seasoned coaching instincts and proven videotaping methodologies.

4. Good coaches draw on their own big stage experiences.

I’d much prefer to get golf lessons from someone who has won a lot of big tournaments. They just have some meaningful insight the casual clubhouse pro doesn’t. In the same way, a coach who has walked out on the big stage themselves and has been a top-rated in their craft, will always bring a unique blend of technique, instinct and timing.


Here are some questions to ask when interviewing that potential coach….

  • How long have they been offering presentation skills coaching and is it all they do?
  • Can you talk to some people they’ve worked with? (Get a deep list). Do they seem to specialize in one vertical industry or do they have a well-balanced range of coaching clients in small to extremely large companies?
  • Are they deeply experienced in coaching senior-level executives or just aspire to do that?
  • What types of post-training resources do they provide to help the exec.keep their skills tuned-up after they go?
  • Ask your prospective coach about their own big stage speaking opportunities.


Maybe 2019 is the year you finally roll out some new professional development options for your leadership group. They may not be inclined to seek coaching out on their own but I guarantee you, they will all be deeply appreciative the next time they step to the front of a room (or stage) to deliver a high-stakes presentation.